Elizabeth Standerwicke, Pocock
Length Closure Ratio (B): 1 to 5.9
Width Closure Ratio (B): 1 to 2.3
Green: 54 ft. x 260 ft. (16.5 x 79.2 m)
Ratio Width to Length (Face to Face): 1:2.5
Face to Face: Width: 127 ft. (38.7 m)
Face to Face: Length: 320 ft. (97.5 m)
Height A: 50 ft. (15.2 m)
Height B: 54 ft. (16.5 m)
During the 1830s and 1840s, the area along Brompton Road and its adjoining precincts was under rapid development. Elizabeth Standerwicke of Ovington House in Hampshire set about in 1844 to develop her freehold estate after the death of her husband, the Bavarian Baron Yon Zandt, turning her attention to the creation of Ovington Square and Terrace as well as the reconfiguration of her frontage on Brompton Road. Ovington Square became an early precendant for later building, where shops were restricted to Brompton and residential development was organized around greens off the main road. (Brompton Road: South side, Survey of London: Volume 41: Brompton (1983) pp. 9-32.)
Baroness Yon Zandt chose the second generation architect William Pocock as her leasehold developer. Pocock initially had rejected the Baroness’ price for some adjoining property, but once the leasehold was enlarged, Pocock later recalled that he “put on my boots, and leaving the house with my informant, but keeping my own counsel, I then and there went to the Agent and made an offer that was accepted for the whole of the land.” Teaming up with Thomas Archbutt, a builder, they got twenty houses underway before the year was out – a remarkable feat considering the regulations of today.
Part of Pocock rush was to be underway before the London’s Building Act of 1844 came into effect. Up until this time, the area had been exempt from building requirements, and the rush to beat the Act caused a building
boom as well as a material shortage. Bricks for Pocock’s development had to be imported from a distance away to assure success.
Ovington Square took eight years to fully complete, but Pocock considered the venture a success. The square feels a bit more urban than another square like Chester or Brompton; the 54 foot wide green being about as tight as one would wish. Composed in the Italian and late Grecian styles popular during the 1840s, there is a clumsiness to the balcony treatment at the second floor level.
Today, Ovington is a bit of a hodge podge. The eastern two buildings flanking the incoming road are nicely articulated, but the introduction of a modern six story building has seriously degraded the north side of the square. A little more effort with the rhythm of the masses and the combination of proportions was clearly needed. The south range feels a bit like a wedding cake. The decision to not use wrought iron at the balcony level was a clear mistake. The termination pavilions which flank the access to Walton Street, however, are well done and add considerable interest to the terminated vista.
If the original fabric had been maintained intact throughout with similar enrichment as we see in the central sections on the north and south ranges, we would have a fine little square. Another ten feet of width would have also have made a great difference.